It’s been a week since Oregon Gov. Kate Brown lowered Lane County’s coronavirus risk level from extreme to high, putting indoor dining back on the table. Owners in Springfield and Eugene say although capacity is limited, they’re seeing a sharp increase in business.
Under high risk guidelines set by the governor, bars, restaurants, breweries, and wineries can offer indoor dining. Some of the guidelines include not exceeding 25% capacity or having a maximum of 50 people indoors, and limiting groups to six people.
In Springfield, Pig and Turnip owner Natalie Shield said the past few days have been busy, with the exceptions of a few rainy days. With indoor dining guidelines, she said they’re able to seat about 50 people.
“Business has been booming since things have reopened...when people are coming out they’re coming out in droves really like Friday, Saturday, Sunday were the best days we’ve had since COVID hit,” she said.
Shield said they have a rigorous sanitizing process, contactless ordering, and customers can only stay up to 90 minutes. She adds they take precautions seriously.
“If the cases go back up we have to close back down it’s really hard, we understand like we all have fatigue from this, but the more we can work together as a community to keep the numbers low the better it’s going to be for the business community,” she said.
Shield said it may seem contradictory, but every time they’ve had to closedown it’s been a “stab” to their hearts.
For Cafe Soriah in Eugene, owner Ibrahim Hamide said he’s also seeing an increase in customers and excitement from both employees and patrons.
“Friday was a giddy day for us, I mean very much hopeful. I personally got my turn at the vaccine, so I got jabbed Saturday,” Hamide said. “The light at the end of the tunnel seems real now, not just a cliché.”
Hamide said they can seat about 40 people indoors at a time and are mostly taking reservations.
“People came out and quite a few [customers] expressed joy...the folks that didn’t think that dining outdoors was palatable to them during winter months in Eugene came in were able to sit inside,” Hamide said.
He said while indoor dining is open, some customers still prefer to eat outdoors. Restaurants in high risk county’s are allowed to increase outdoor dining capacity by 25, meaning restaurants can now seat 75 people.
Hamide said it can be challenging to keep up, but they’re getting their sea-legs back and are following health guidelines.
Something that’s affected both Hamide and Shield is the need to hire more staff to meet the surge in customers. Both Hamide and Shield said while they were able to retain some core staff, they had to let others go.
Hamide said he was able to fill in an open position, but Shield said she’s still looking.
“There's just a kind of deficit in the hiring market, it’s been really hard for us to get the right staff back and trained and because it’s been so long we’ve lost a lot of the people that we’ve had to let go initially,” she said.
Shield said she’s doing her best to support her employees currently on staff, but in the meantime she’d like customers in general, at any restaurant to be kinder to staff because they’re likely overworked.
Whether indoor dining remains an option is dependent upon the number of COVID-19 case counts. In the past, Gov. Brown has assigned risk rates every two-weeks, however the governor announced on March 4 that until further notice counties will be given a two-week extension to correct course if they regress from high risk to extreme risk categories.
The next assignment is scheduled for March 9.
Copyright 2021, KLCC